On Sunday, I had the pleasure (and the pain) of riding on the annual Five Boro Bike Tour in New York, a 40-mile bike ride that goes through all five boroughs of New York, from Manhattan to the Bronx to Queens to Brooklyn to Staten Island. It’s probably one of the coolest ways to see the City, as the City will close off a lot of New York’s major roads to make room for the 30,000 bikers (to the ire of some motorists who didn’t get the memo). Moreover, a lot of riders raise money for charity as well.
It was a spectacular day for a ride (although some parts of me would beg to differ). Here’s what it feels like to ride the last three miles, from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge into the finish line on Staten Island!
Overall, a great ride once again pulled off flawlessly by the good folks at Bike New York, who have been doing this since 1977.
Switching gears for a moment (no pun intended), the ride got me to thinking how much we in the United States take something like bicycling for granted. Most of us have bikes from the time we’re kids. By the time we get our learner’s permits for driving when we’re teenagers, often our bikes end up in the back of a garage somewhere growing rusty and collecting dust. Most of us who ride in our adult years do it for recreation and exercise.
On the other hand, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that something as simple as a bicycle, in certain parts of the world, can change lives and communities for the better. Which is why, as a bike enthusiast, I was thrilled to learn about a product that Theo Chocolate is selling on behalf of World Bike Relief.
World Bike Relief is a charity that was founded in 2005 after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. As the shattered nation of Sri Lanka struggled to rebuild itself, something as fundamental as bicycles became critical to helping rebuild lives. In total, they provided over 24,000 bicycles to disaster victims, health care workers, and field staff, helping them travel four time the distance they could travel if they were just walking to rebuild communities.
World Bicycle Relief has expanded its work to Africa. To date, they’ve provided over 100,000 bicycles to help students, entrepreneurs, and health care workers in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They have a unique design for bicycles which can withstand weather, rugged terrain, heavy loads, and long distances, and they even assemble them locally, providing even more stimulus for the neediest areas.
Speaking of noteworthy organizations, Theo Chocolate is one of those great companies that not only donates proceeds of many of their products to charity, they also adhere to some noteworthy principles in the way they do business. Their ingredients are all organic, free from pesticides and chemicals. They all grown sustainably in a way that protects the environment. They buy their cacao directly from growers under the “Fair Trade” principle, meaning that the ingredients aren’t just picked by the lowest bidder, but by companies that treat their employees in an ethical and respectful way.
Theo Chocolate uses the term “bean to bar”, meaning that the chocolate you eat is among the finest, more natural chocolate you’ll have.
They sell many products, but the one that supports World Bicycle Relief is this Dark Chocolate bar with a hint of sea salt. If you’re a fan of dark chocolate, this bar does not disappoint–it has an amazingly rich cocoa flavor that simply blows away any other I’ve had..and yes, that includes the one that starts with “G”, the one that starts with “H”, the one that starts with “L” and the other one that starts with “G”! The addition of sea salt is a relatively new gourmet trend–your chocolate is accentuated with little crystals of sea salt which adds a surprising tanginess to the flavor (I’ve heard people say that it pairs well with red wine).
One thing I really, really love about these chocolate bars is that they’re, well, the size that chocolate bars used to be before they started shrinking and shrinking. We’re talking Willy Wonka-esque chocolate bars that you loved as a kid, complete with the inner foil wrapper. On the outer wrapper are photos of Cynthia (age 18) and Beene (age 17) from Zambia, two recipients of World Bicycle Relief bikes, and printed on the inside are even more facts about the power of bicycles to the regions of the world that the organization serves.
I’m actually hoping to visit the Theo Factory the next time I’m in Seattle to hear more about the “inside story” of chocolate. And of course, please check out the charities and organizations mentioned in this post, especially if you are or know a biking enthusiast!